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Adversary / Threat One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Talk about (or with?) them.

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Old 02-06-2010   #41
Dayuhan
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
You ask:

"Where and when in this conflict have we been attacked by an insurgent populace resisting a Western-supported regime? "

The first World Trade Center attack; the USS Cole, the Embassy bombings, 9/11; all of the foreign figher attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan; etc, etc, etc.
I can't see any of these as the acts of an insurgent populace. A few highly radicalized individuals, yes, but that's not the same thing.

Certainly one could cite attacks on US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan conducted by Iraqis and Afghans as the acts of an insurgent populace, but attacks by foreign fighters? Again, the acts of a small number of highly radicalized individuals.

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To make matters worse, the despotic governments that these insurgencies are struggling to affect now come to the US with hat in hand as great allies, and ask for money and weapons to use against their own people in the name of "combatting terrorism;" and we laud them as great allies...
I can't quite see the Saudis, for one, coming to the US with hat in hand asking for favors... more the other way around. There is dependency in that equation, certainly, but it ain't them depending on us.

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We are being played, and we allow ourselves to be played because we fear the economic impact that breaking relations with these countries could cause to our economy. Ironic. Supporting them has trashed our economy even worse that what we feared would happen if we did not support them.
I'm not sure this equation makes sense to me... who is "playing" us, and how? How has supporting anyone in the ME "trashed our economy"? We did that all by ourselves, I'd say.

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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
As to having the capacity to "fix" Yemen. Not our job. We don't need to fix these guys, we need to give them some tough love and stop supporting their destructive behavior and demand that they either begin addressing the concerns of their popualces with our help, or ignore them and deal with the results on their own.
I'm not convinced that they have the capacity to address the concerns of the populace, and I don't think any amount of tough love from us or anyone is likely to create that capacity in less than a generation or two. Certainly we can ignore them, but if the place degenerates into chaos and turns into another Somalia it will be difficult to ignore. I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with the short term choices that have been made, but neither am I sure that I've anything better to offer.
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Old 02-06-2010   #42
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Dayuhan. I know we see this from differing perspectives, so what follows is not so much aimed at you personally, but merely a quick effort on my part to try to explain my perspective more clearly. I realize mine is a minority position.

"Foreign fighters": A node of the AQ UW Network. These are not "radicalized individuals", and these are not "terrorists". These men come from a handful of countries and are for the most part directly related to, in membership or purpose, with nationalist insurgency movements in their respective countries. They travel to fight the US where we are, primarily because they buy into the AQ message that they cannot be successful in their quest to throw off illegitimate governance at home until the break the support of the US-led west to those same governments in particular and the Middle East in general.

They come from Saudi Arabia, they come from Yemen, they come from Algeria, and they come from Libya. They come from others as well. All nations with active nationalist Sunni insurgencies. All nations with governments that arguably do not draw their legitimacy from sources their respective populaces recognize. All Nations that score high on the despotism scales. All Nations that are US allies and partners in our "War on Terrorism." They also come from the imigrant populaces from these states living currently in Western nations. Many of these groups are angered by the treatment of their homelands, and also perceive less than full inclusion in their new homes. I.e. they do not identify themselves as citizens of their current states first.

The strategic key is that we do not need to "fix" any of these countries, but neither should we set ourselves up as a protective buffer between these governments and their own populaces. The "tough love" I speak to is a combination of breaking unconditional aspect of this protective relationship and striking hard conditions. Governments need not be "effective" to be resistant to insurgency: they need primarily to be perceived as legitimate by their own populace, and that same populace needs to have some mechanism that they trust in to effect needed changes in governance. Two simple strategic steps

1. Perceived Legitimacy through the eyes of the governed populace,

2. A trusted mechanism in place that that populace can rely upon to effect governmental changes when they believe it to be necessary.

We delude ourselves to our detriment when we:

1. Blame the growing violence against the US on "radicalized individuals"

2. Convince ourselves that supporting despotic leaders will not result in consequences at the hands of those populaces forced to endure under governments they have no legal means to address

3. When we think that massive military charity in the form of "Population-Centric COIN" tactics will somehow buy/force peace on these insurgent populaces while at the same time protecting the very government over them that they see as illegitimate.

The sad part is the smarter answer is actually far less expensive and far less damaging to our reputation, and far less burdensome on our superb military forces. The smarter answer is also far more likely to produce a positive enduring effect. The kicker though, is that it requires that we relinquish control over the outcome. The "Good Cold Warriors" cannot do that. There world is based in the control of others.

Once we step back from the anomaly of Cold War policies; and re-embrace our founding principles as a nation, much of the current problems will sort out. Self-Determination is a beautiful thing. We demanded it for ourselves; we need to stop working so hard to deny it to others. Islamism is no more dangerous to the world than communism was. Both were just convenient ideologies that spoke to oppressed populaces that worked for driving out illegitimate governments in their time and place. 40 years from now we'll look at the nut jobs ranting about "radicalization" the same way we look back at Senator McCarthy. They didn't understand the role of ideology in insurgency then, and they still don't.

Legitimacy of government in the eyes of the governed; and a trusted mechanism to legally affect governmental change. These two things are, I believe, the strategic keys to COIN. Address them first, and the rest will in short order fall into place. Ignore them and address the symptoms instead, and you are in for a long, painful ride.
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Last edited by Bob's World; 02-06-2010 at 12:41 PM.
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Old 02-06-2010   #43
Bill Moore
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Posted by Bob's World,
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This is the great irony, the two places we have sent our military to "defeat terrorism" in fact, have very little to do with the root cause of the political factors that gave rise to AQ and also that motivate many nationalist insurgents across the middle east (from places like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Algeria) to engage the West in acts of Terrorism.
I sympathize with your frustration my brother, but I question the practicality of addressing so called root causes, especially political factors that gave rise to AQ (and groups like them that arose and have fallen in the past). We all know the problem is painfully complex, so any post is simply one or two thoughts on the subject out of many. “Some” reasons I do not concur with your point above are:

It is imperial hubris for us to attempt to “push” our values upon another country. What you see as illegitimate governments may in fact be legitimate in the eyes of the majority of their population. Just because a few thousand radicals who want to impose Shari’a law upon their fellow men are dissatisfied doesn’t equate to a popular revolt. While not political correct (I know that concerns our lawyers) the “root” cause is not oppressive governments in the Middle East or Western oppression, but rather the interpretation of Islam itself my some (not a majority) of its followers. Jihad existed long before the West had colonies, and the root cause was their religion, which is political. They strived to establish a caliphate by the sword. If we think that the current governments are illegitimate just wait until a caliphate is established and all women are oppressed, education is dumbed down to religious studies, and these nations go backwards in time. It is tricky business for us to determine what is legitimate and what isn’t.

On 9/11 we were attacked by AQ, not by illegitimate governments in the Middle East. Their base was in Afghanistan, and the American people appropriately demanded a harsh response for the murder of close to 3,000 citizens. I’m not sure attempting to reform the government of Saudi would have been accepted by the American people as a practical or appropriate response, and as Dayuhan wrote below the reason for the attack was to draw us into battle to begin with. If we didn’t respond, they would have hit us again.

In my opinion we went in too light, and although our forces assumed great risk they didn’t assume enough risk and we allowed AQ senior leadership to escape into Pakistan. Our mission was to defeat AQ, then the mission morphed into developing a “legitimate” government, but it was only legitimate in the eyes of the coalition, not the Afghan people. The nature of the conflict has changed, it now has very little to do with AQ, and we have created our own mess by trying to rebuild the country, while AQ is establishing safe haven elsewhere. There is a certain beauty to punitive military operations, and that IMO is what we should have done in Afghanistan, go in hard and leave. If they come back we go back. You may find that amusing, but is it more amusing than what we’re doing now?

Attempting to reform the governments in the Middle East, unless you are suggesting we help AQ build the caliphate, will not undermine AQ’s motivation. Are we going to get rid of Israel? Are we going to withdraw from the Middle East completely after we install Islamist regimes?


Posted by Dayuhan,

Quote:
I personally believe that the purpose of the 9/11 attacks was to draw the US into punching the tar baby and initiating military actions that could be dragged into wars of attrition. That was not a response to US actions or policies, but a carefully calculated proactive gambit aiming to simultaneously reinforce the narrative of Western aggression against Muslims (a narrative that was at the time becoming rather weak) and engage the US in a military action that would exploit our rather notorious unwillingness to maintain expensive and unpleasant long term actions. If I'm right, we gave AQ an abundance of what they wanted.
This was UBL's stated intention in open source documents long before 9/11. They defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan and believed they could do same with the U.S. through a form of economic and political attrition warfare. What a victory if they could defeat the world's two super powers. 9/11 wasn't the first attack, others were conducted in an attempt to drag us into Afghanistan, but I think you would agree that at least initially the fight went very bad for AQ. They didn't truly appreciate the power of our military and CIA or our national commitment (at the time) to crush them. IMO we didn't pursue it hard enough and lost our asymmetric advantage of brute military power against a consolidated enemy trying to fight us head on, BUT when we over stayed our welcome the nature of the fight changed to our disadvantage, the fight AQ wanted, although AQ only plays a small role in that fight now.

It's frustrating, but I'm confident we'll still triumph in the end. Agree with Bob's World that our current strategy is still off track, but we'll eventually get right (probably out of necessity).
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Old 02-06-2010   #44
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from Dayuhan
.... our rather notorious unwillingness to maintain expensive and unpleasant long term actions.
in light of OEF 2001-2010 and still counting, OIF 2003-2010 and still counting; and their granddaddy Indochine 1953-1973. "Maintain", we will; "like it", we won't.

Good post, Bill Moore - "imperial hubris" vs "punitive raids", an interesting juxtaposition.

Regards

Mike
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Old 02-06-2010   #45
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
Islamism is no more dangerous to the world than communism was. Both were just convenient ideologies that spoke to oppressed populaces that worked for driving out illegitimate governments in their time and place. 40 years from now we'll look at the nut jobs ranting about "radicalization" the same way we look back at Senator McCarthy...
He had the right idea but used some poor methodolgy to try to do what he thought needed to be done.

Lot of that going around...

That's a long way of saying that if you do not think Communism was and is dangerous, you have obviously missed what has happened to this country as a result of the actions and activities of some so-called Communists, their hangers on and collection of useful idiots.

If you do not think facets of Islamic belief, misapplied, are dangerous you may not have lost any good friends to those bizarre beliefs before 9/11, before Afghanistan and before Iraq.
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Legitimacy of government in the eyes of the governed; and a trusted mechanism to legally affect governmental change. These two things are, I believe, the strategic keys to COIN. Address them first, and the rest will in short order fall into place. Ignore them and address the symptoms instead, and you are in for a long, painful ride.
I don't totally agree with that but it too is as right as it is wrong. Question not answered, still, is how do you get that "legitimacy of government?" I have yet to see one that all involved believed was legitimate. In the unlikely event you were to plan and describe one that would be viewed by all as legitimate then comes the hard part. What, precisely, is your trusted mechanism? Even Canada has election fiddles...

And COIN is still a myth, a theory that needs to be parked in a museum...
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Old 02-06-2010   #46
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Jihad existed long before the West had colonies, and the root cause was their religion, which is political... It is tricky business for us to determine what is legitimate and what isn’t.

...If we didn’t respond, they would have hit us again...There is a certain beauty to punitive military operations, and that IMO is what we should have done in Afghanistan, go in hard and leave. If they come back we go back. You may find that amusing, but is it more amusing than what we’re doing now?
I don't find it amusing -- it's one of the most sensible things that's been posted on this board in a while. I know the ancient Chinese (and I think Bob's World) put a lot of stock in threes. Been my observation that most persistent pests are stopped by three hard smackdowns. Hard, not light (as we have tried to do three times now; Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq. hopefully we smacked ourselves hard enough to not try it again...). Gotta be hard (and that will cost less and harm fewer people in the long run) and you have to be able and prepared to deliver three...
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...Are we going to withdraw from the Middle East completely after we install Islamist regimes?
Heh. This reality trash needs to cease.
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It's frustrating, but I'm confident we'll still triumph in the end. Agree with Bob's World that our current strategy is still off track, but we'll eventually get right (probably out of necessity).
I agree with all that...
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Old 02-06-2010   #47
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I agree with most of what Bill Moore is saying. btw, some days i have the feeling that people are OVERESTIMATING the "insurgency". What if super taliban is not as super as everyone seems to think? What if Pakistan completely switched sides? Where will Mullah Omar and friends go? It might be easier than many people think...
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Old 02-07-2010   #48
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Bill: Totally agree that a strong raid into Afghanistan to punish the living crap out of AQ and then leave was the way to go. Tell the Taliban stay out of this, it isn't about you, do our business and then go home. Instead we took out the Taliban, installed a new government, and then took on the role of protector....

But to clarify some key points in my root causes argument, because AQ is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.

1. Illegitimate governments: I am very clear that the definition is through the eyes of the populace being governed, not some external party. That when the populace of a nation (or even some autonomous region that isn't really a state in western terms) does not recognize the legitimacy of the governance over them, you have a prime, strategic, causal factor for insurgency.

2. I never said we need to attack or reform these illegitimate governments, I said that we need to stop protecting and supporting them in the suppression of their own populaces. The second prime strategic causal factor for insurgency is the lack of a trusted, certain process that a populace can employ to affect governance legally and peacefully. I don't care what that process is. I don't think we need to force western values, democracy or voting on anyone. I do think we need to hold a hard line with this entire crop of autocratic despots whose populaces are filling the ranks of AQ on the road, and insurgent movements at home to devise and implement such processes. This will either lead to new governments that those respective populaces recognize the legitimacy of, or will bestow new popular legitimacy on the existing government. It will allow the populaces of these nations to enact their OWN reforms. Hubris indeed to attempt to shape in our image.

3. Everyone jumps from "We must support despotic dictators" to "we must abandon our influence in the Middle East." Is there really no middle ground? I refuse to believe that. We live in an era of Lazy Diplomacy. We are bigger and stronger so we either demand that others do as we wish them to under threat of economic or military violence; or if they refuse, we label them "rogue" and either ostracize them or attack them. We have become selfish bullies. Do what I say or I'll take my ball and go home, or kick your ass, depending on how I feel, and if I think you can hurt me or not (i.e., have nuclear weapons). We must find a middle ground in the Middle East. In another thread they talked about having as powerful as possible military, and then using it as rarely as possible. I agree. So long as everyone knows you also possess the will to use it quickly and judiciously when necessary. We have gotten lazy and now lead with the military option.

For Ken:

4. No question major mayhem has been wrought in the name of Communism and Islam. But there is also no question that major mayhem has been wrought in the name of Democracy, Christianity, etc, etc etc. It isn't the ideology one uses to motivate their populace to action that is to be feared, it is the underlying causal factors that promote the violence itself. Colonialism is a big problem today. The residue of Western imperialism will shape conflicts for years to come. Just as the residue of Greek imperialism shaped conflicts from the Balkans to India for hundreds of years. Just as the residue of Roman imperialism shaped conflicts for hundreds of years from the Levant to Great Britain. To fear and attack the ideology of those who rise up to throw off illegitimate or oppressive control measures is to fear the wrong thing. It is to fear the loud noise of a gun going off rather than the bullet headed for your brain. It is to counter the noise rather than to address why you are being shot at in the first place.


No, I stand firm on my two points of strategic COIN:

1. First ensure that the populace recognizes the legitimacy of its governance on their terms.

2. Second, ensure that the populace has legal, peaceful, trusted and certain measures in place to effect changes of governance.



Finally, to bring this home: As I watched the inaugural of President Obama, I found it very interesting how the media went on and on about how America was electing its first Black President; I also found it interesting how fired up about this fact the African American populace was (I had thought that insurgency was resolved, but no, it requires more work and constant nurturing). But what I found the most interesting was what no one was talking about. The most powerful man in the world, the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, was handing over that mantle to another man peacefully, as a matter of course, because the people had chosen a new leader and it was time to transfer in accordance with the laws of the land and with will of the people. And no one noticed.

In America this is as natural as breathing. No one notices oxygen when it is all around you. In many lands around the world there is no such "political oxygen." There are few things more noticeable than the lack of oxygen. When we support despotic, illegitimate leaders, it is Uncle Sam's hand that is on the knob of the oxygen tank. When the populaces of those countries seek to throw of those illegitimate, despotic governments, it is only natural that they seek first to take our hand off of that knob. We don't need to take our hand off the knob (i.e., pack up and go home), we just need to turn the damn oxygen on.
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 02-07-2010   #49
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...But there is also no question that major mayhem has been wrought in the name of Democracy, Christianity, etc, etc etc... Colonialism is a big problem today. To fear and attack the ideology of those who rise up to throw off illegitimate or oppressive control measures is to fear the wrong thing.
True on the fact that 'democracy' and colonialism have their own failures that have left fear and resentment in many places. Yet, most people I've talked to around the world over the years acknowledged that 'our' crimes were and are slight compared to at least one of the two you cited -- and the other is rapidly gaining, even among its own devotees, an equally bad reputation. A lot of folks overseas "hate the US" but most of them also want to emigrate and come here...

While there are undoubtedly some who fear the ideology instead of what said ideologies can do, I think they're relatively few in number and are rarely in a position to affect policy. I think you're seeing 'what they can do' attacked in a not very effective way partly due to poor information and knowledge and partly to lack of some effective tools to do it another way. An example is the punitve strategic raid -- those things have been done for centureis -- but we do not do them for a variety of reasons. I believe that is large measure due to a lack of political will in the corridors of power of the US. I agree with much you say but your ideas are not going to work unless you fix that.
Quote:
No, I stand firm on my two points of strategic COIN:

1. First ensure that the populace recognizes the legitimacy of its governance on their terms.

2. Second, ensure that the populace has legal, peaceful, trusted and certain measures in place to effect changes of governance.
Yes, you do indeed stand firm on those two items and have for many months -- you also have yet to tell us how to realistically implement those ideas.
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Finally, to bring this home: As I watched the inaugural of President Obama...And no one noticed.
I don't think that's correct; most of the rest of the world noticed but our flaccid media doesn't report foreign news at all well -- it doesn't even report US news at all well -- so you might have missed it. As a cruiser of worldwide English language news on the internet, I saw a lot of comment on that aspect. Many wondering why their transitions were not as assured. Interestingly, there were people here who did not believe that relatively smooth transition would occur, rumors of coups and other things abounded inside the US.
Quote:
When we support despotic, illegitimate leaders, it is Uncle Sam's hand that is on the knob of the oxygen tank. When the populaces of those countries seek to throw of those illegitimate, despotic governments, it is only natural that they seek first to take our hand off of that knob. We don't need to take our hand off the knob (i.e., pack up and go home), we just need to turn the damn oxygen on.
Sorry, do not agree at all. Some of those regimes are despotic; many more are just not as nice a some would like -- though the bulk of the populace is content. A lot of those 'populaces' you frequently are in fact merely segments of a populace with axes to grind and / or agendas that point in other directions. A few of those axes are reflexively anti-American simply because we're big, arrogant and clumsy. All those failings are due to our governmental system and real change means changing that system. Good luck with that...

We also need to satay away from other folks' oxygen...

You have an amazingly benign view of people for a former Prosecutor. My Daughter in Law in the Seattle area has a Sister who is a prosecutor and has been for about 20 years. Same region of the country, same basic demographics -- and she's more cynical about people than I am...

We can agree philosophically but practically, probably not. People are as a collective are prone to be unduly selfish which leads them to follow demagogues and do strange and illegal things (including being rebels without a cause...). People will tolerate poor governance and the USA is a major example of that (proof is in your daily news, just check the Early Bird). You tend to gloss over that little failing...

The world is not a nice place and some of your suggestions are unlikely to be implemented because the ebb and flow of international relations mitigates against it. All those other nations have a say in what happens and many of them do not wish us well and they will look for any chink to do some minor or major harm as they believe they can succeed. This:
Quote:
we label them "rogue" and either ostracize them or attack them. We have become selfish bullies. Do what I say or I'll take my ball and go home, or kick your ass, depending on how I feel, and if I think you can hurt me or not (i.e., have nuclear weapons).
is one result of that. US desires are not the sole reason we appear to do what you say, other nations including some 'friends' nudge and fiddle to take us down a peg, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. We respond to many things the way we do primarily due to having a dysfunctional (by design) government.

Lastly, you have never addressed how you intend to get the US political class and system to operate as you desire; how you're going to get around that designed, Constitutional, illogical and flawed functionality -- even though I have repeatedly asked you to do so. You can blow me off and not answer but to then keep saying the same things over and over without addressing the issues raised is not IMO helpful to your position. YMMV but I think changing the US approach is a far bigger impediment to Bob's World than the other two factors combined.

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Old 02-07-2010   #50
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Better we strive hard to change ourselves, than to demand that everyone else change to suit our out of date expectations.

OK, a few "Hows"

1. Declare and end to the war on terrorism. Running around the world declaring that we are a nation at war makes us sound like Chicken Little.

2. Officially announce that the State Department is once again lead (now that the war is over) for foreign policy and direct two things of them:
a. Change your name from State Department to something along the lines of "Foreign Office", that better recognizes that not every organization we must work with is a "State."
b. Conduct a top down review of all foreign policies and relationships shaped over the course of the Cold War and following period; and assess for relevance. Come back in 8 weeks with initial misison analysis for how to conduct foreign polciy in the current globalized world, highlighting any place where a "Cold Warism" was either retained or rejected and explain why.
(1) Specifically address an alternative position on Taiwan and Iran that are more relevant to the modern security concerns of our nation and that are apt to allow the devopment of healthier relationships with two of the most important nations (China and Iran) in the emerging world order.
(2) Also specficially address any nation considered an "Ally" or receiveing U.S foreign aid that is also listed as a major human rights violater and is possessed of a populace that is a major provider of AQ foreign fighters / terrorists. Include a plan that cuts aid to each of those countries by 50% per year until such time as they open negotiations with their own populaces to identify and address concerns; as well as to create mechanisms, logical and acceptable to them, to provide a reasonable and certain procedure for the populace to affect changes of governance short of insurgency.

3. I would immediately put all surge of forces to Afghanistan on hold and publically congratulate Mr. Karzai on his announcements about holding a Loya Jirga to address the legitimacy issues that his govenrment has; and then privately tell him we are packing up and gone by the end of the year unless he has a true, wide open, Loya Jirga with all Afghan stake holders appropriately represented. Then publicly offer our assurances of safetey of those who attend, and commit to working with whatever government emerges from this uniquely Afghan vehichle of government legitmacy.


Oh, and as to this:

"A lot of those 'populaces' you frequently are in fact merely segments of a populace with axes to grind and / or agendas that point in other directions. A few of those axes are reflexively anti-American (British) simply because we're big, arrogant and clumsy. All those failings are due to our governmental system and real change means changing that system. "

That could be a direct lift from the transcripts of British Parliment back in 1775...I suspect that is where you either first heard or used the line!
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Robert C. Jones
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

Last edited by Bob's World; 02-07-2010 at 09:34 AM.
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Old 02-07-2010   #51
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-- and she's more cynical about people than I am...
Gee willikers, Mr. White, Old Soldiers like yourself are one of the reasons I'm not cynical! Although I'm not sayin' you're old, y'unnerstan'...
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Old 02-07-2010   #52
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Default Uh, Bob

-- those aren't 'hows,' they're really 'whats.' My question was HOW you get the US government and specifically, the Congress, to do those what thingys you have often suggested...

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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
Better we strive hard to change ourselves, than to demand that everyone else change to suit our out of date expectations.
Well said and I agree but that's pie in the sky...
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1. Declare and end to the war on terrorism.
That's been done. In theory anyway.
Quote:
...Running around the world declaring that we are a nation at war makes us sound like Chicken Little.
I totally agree, a lot of folks in Congress and the country will or do also agree -- unfortunately, there are probably more that do or will not for various reasons including turf protection -- what do you propose to do about them? I'm sure you recall that hope is not a plan...

I agree with your other numbered items but am unsure how you propose to get there and frankly, quite strongly doubt that it is possible.

Oh, and as to this:
Quote:
That could be a direct lift from the transcripts of British Parliment back in 1775...I suspect that is where you either first heard or used the line!
Actually I first heard it on the border of Nubia even longer ago. It was true then, true in Gaul in 300 BC, true in 1775 AD and is still true today. Passing it off does not make it one bit less true; ignoring that reality by a strategic thinker is umm, surprising...

And you still have not proffered one single idea for HOW you plan to make that change occur...

Backwards Observer. Simply stop looking at your fourth point of contact, look ahead and you too can and will become cynical. It's absoutely painless -- and it keeps you alive.

You can say I'm old because I "unnerstan" that I am. Generally when I look about today, I'm pretty thankful that I am..
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Old 02-07-2010   #53
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Backwards Observer. Simply stop looking at your fourth point of contact, look ahead and you too can and will become cynical. It's absoutely painless -- and it keeps you alive.
I try to face up and be a good cynic, but this world is so unusually interesting that I reckon it's nigh on a miracle that there are any good folks at all. Maybe it's some Isaiah 11:6 thing I'm trying to get over.

Quote:
Isaiah 11:6 (King James Version)

6The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
I guess in this world the little child is probably holding an rpg...whoa, I think I'm starting to see the light!
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Old 02-07-2010   #54
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Wink Grenades, Nigel. The kids use grenades. The bad guys

start 'em off with throwing rocks and then, when they get good, escalate to grenades...

The RPGs are for the teenagers who get those with which to be surly (in lieu of body piercing).

Actually, one shouldn't be cynical and I hope I'm not unduly so -- but it does flat pay to be suspicious.
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Old 02-08-2010   #55
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Dayuhan. I know we see this from differing perspectives
No, really? Ah hadn't noticed...

Yes, I know we keep coming back to it, but it's an issue at the core of how we're trying to handle the current mess, and I'm not quite willing to let it go.

The idea that foreign fighters represent an insurgent populace at home is something that needs to be examined, and I'm not convinced that it stands up to examination. After all, an abundance of foreign fighters flocked to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets... were they also representatives of an insurgent populace? Fighting the Russians in Afghanistan seems an odd way of expressing discontent with American influence over the homeland. I'm not sure quite why you would say that foreign fighters indicate insurgency on the home front, rather than a relatively small number of young men driven by a potent mix of testosterone, religious fervor, and lack of anything better to do at home... a mix that has sent young men off to fight in wars of dubious purpose many times in the past (the Crusades might be cited as an example).

I agree with Bill, who said what I was trying to say in a good deal fewer words:

Quote:
It is imperial hubris for us to attempt to “push” our values upon another country. What you see as illegitimate governments may in fact be legitimate in the eyes of the majority of their population. Just because a few thousand radicals who want to impose Shari’a law upon their fellow men are dissatisfied doesn’t equate to a popular revolt.
Regarding this...

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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
(2) Also specficially address any nation considered an "Ally" or receiveing U.S foreign aid that is also listed as a major human rights violater and is possessed of a populace that is a major provider of AQ foreign fighters / terrorists. Include a plan that cuts aid to each of those countries by 50% per year until such time as they open negotiations with their own populaces to identify and address concerns; as well as to create mechanisms, logical and acceptable to them, to provide a reasonable and certain procedure for the populace to affect changes of governance short of insurgency.
In the case of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, this of course gets us exactly nowhere, because we don't give them any aid and they are not in any way dependent on us. Even if we had leverage, though... how do you think the populace of, say, Saudi Arabia would react if we demanded or even suggested that the Saudis need "a reasonable and certain procedure for the populace to affect changes of governance". I wouldn't expect any appreciation or gratitude. I'd expect them to tell us to mind our own damned business, amid a great deal of suspicion that our intention is to use that mechanism in some devious way to insert of Government that will be subject to our control, a suspicion that AQ will be all to eager to promote and exploit. AQ, after all, is agitating for more despotism, not less.

Whatever our actual intentions, I suspect that the policy you suggest will be perceived, even among its intended beneficiaries, as arrogant imposition, self-interested meddling, or both.

The notion of "dialogue with the populace" is I think hopelessly simplistic. Many of these populaces are extremely fractured and factionalized, and there is nothing even resembling consensus on who speaks for the populace or what policies are desired. What one faction sees as an irreducible minimum demand may be seen by another as an intolerable provocation. The problem in many cases is not that there is no dialogue, but that the dialogue has devolved into a screaming match, or a shootout.

You mentioned Algeria and Yemen... Algeria has an elected National Assembly with over 20 political parties represented. Yemen has what on paper appears to be a quite admirable set of democratic institutions. Of course these institutions don't work the way anyone would want them to. Your suggestion seems to assume that the Governments in question have the capacity to make things work, but don't choose to do it, and that we can force them to make things work by threatening to reduce aid. I doubt that's going to work, because the sad reality is that they have no idea how to make things work, and neither do we.

In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states I really don't think there's any major popular demand for a mechanism to remove and replace Governments. These are very conservative countries, and there is a pervading fear that establishing such a mechanism would generate intense competition for position, and the result would be chaos. For better or worse, many in that part of the world fear chaos more than they fear despotism.

Certainly there was much discontent in SA during the 90s, driven by the combination of the oil glut and the highly visible US military presence. In many eyes these two phenomena were related: just as Americans tend to blame high oil prices as a conspiracy driven by the Saudis and the oil companies, Saudis tend to blame low oil prices on a conspiracy between Americans and oil companies. Despite prodigious efforts to exploit that discontent, UBL et al were never able to generate anywhere nearly enough support to drive an insurgency. Today the narrative of resentment from those days has dissolved almost completely under a rain of dollars: it's amazing what sloshing a few hundred billion around will do to mellow out a disgruntled populace.

I think it's dangerous to assume that AQ's attacks on us were a reactive phenomenon that was driven by our policies and can be undercut by a change in our policies, and that if we follow that assumption we can easily spend a great deal of effort in policies and actions that are not productive and may be counterproductive.
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Old 02-08-2010   #56
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Default Ab-so-lutely!

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The notion of "dialogue with the populace" is I think hopelessly simplistic. Many of these populaces are extremely fractured and factionalized, and there is nothing even resembling consensus on who speaks for the populace or what policies are desired...
. . .
I think it's dangerous to assume that AQ's attacks on us were a reactive phenomenon that was driven by our policies and can be undercut by a change in our policies, and that if we follow that assumption we can easily spend a great deal of effort in policies and actions that are not productive and may be counterproductive.
Two very important truths...

There may be one out there but I know of no nation where the population is monolithic as implied. Not Norway, not Singapore. Not even the Vatican...

As for AQ and a number of other "they hate us for what we are /were/ did..." That's very fallacious thinking. A lot of quite counterproductive effort is undertaken due to standing broad jumps at wrong conclusions...
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Old 02-08-2010   #57
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Default Well, as I say, it is a minority opinion

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No, really? Ah hadn't noticed...

Yes, I know we keep coming back to it, but it's an issue at the core of how we're trying to handle the current mess, and I'm not quite willing to let it go.

The idea that foreign fighters represent an insurgent populace at home is something that needs to be examined, and I'm not convinced that it stands up to examination. After all, an abundance of foreign fighters flocked to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets... were they also representatives of an insurgent populace? Fighting the Russians in Afghanistan seems an odd way of expressing discontent with American influence over the homeland. I'm not sure quite why you would say that foreign fighters indicate insurgency on the home front, rather than a relatively small number of young men driven by a potent mix of testosterone, religious fervor, and lack of anything better to do at home... a mix that has sent young men off to fight in wars of dubious purpose many times in the past (the Crusades might be cited as an example).

I agree with Bill, who said what I was trying to say in a good deal fewer words:



Regarding this...



In the case of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, this of course gets us exactly nowhere, because we don't give them any aid and they are not in any way dependent on us. Even if we had leverage, though... how do you think the populace of, say, Saudi Arabia would react if we demanded or even suggested that the Saudis need "a reasonable and certain procedure for the populace to affect changes of governance". I wouldn't expect any appreciation or gratitude. I'd expect them to tell us to mind our own damned business, amid a great deal of suspicion that our intention is to use that mechanism in some devious way to insert of Government that will be subject to our control, a suspicion that AQ will be all to eager to promote and exploit. AQ, after all, is agitating for more despotism, not less.

Whatever our actual intentions, I suspect that the policy you suggest will be perceived, even among its intended beneficiaries, as arrogant imposition, self-interested meddling, or both.

The notion of "dialogue with the populace" is I think hopelessly simplistic. Many of these populaces are extremely fractured and factionalized, and there is nothing even resembling consensus on who speaks for the populace or what policies are desired. What one faction sees as an irreducible minimum demand may be seen by another as an intolerable provocation. The problem in many cases is not that there is no dialogue, but that the dialogue has devolved into a screaming match, or a shootout.

You mentioned Algeria and Yemen... Algeria has an elected National Assembly with over 20 political parties represented. Yemen has what on paper appears to be a quite admirable set of democratic institutions. Of course these institutions don't work the way anyone would want them to. Your suggestion seems to assume that the Governments in question have the capacity to make things work, but don't choose to do it, and that we can force them to make things work by threatening to reduce aid. I doubt that's going to work, because the sad reality is that they have no idea how to make things work, and neither do we.

In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states I really don't think there's any major popular demand for a mechanism to remove and replace Governments. These are very conservative countries, and there is a pervading fear that establishing such a mechanism would generate intense competition for position, and the result would be chaos. For better or worse, many in that part of the world fear chaos more than they fear despotism.

Certainly there was much discontent in SA during the 90s, driven by the combination of the oil glut and the highly visible US military presence. In many eyes these two phenomena were related: just as Americans tend to blame high oil prices as a conspiracy driven by the Saudis and the oil companies, Saudis tend to blame low oil prices on a conspiracy between Americans and oil companies. Despite prodigious efforts to exploit that discontent, UBL et al were never able to generate anywhere nearly enough support to drive an insurgency. Today the narrative of resentment from those days has dissolved almost completely under a rain of dollars: it's amazing what sloshing a few hundred billion around will do to mellow out a disgruntled populace.

I think it's dangerous to assume that AQ's attacks on us were a reactive phenomenon that was driven by our policies and can be undercut by a change in our policies, and that if we follow that assumption we can easily spend a great deal of effort in policies and actions that are not productive and may be counterproductive.

But as the airwaves and print are full of the same steady drum beat of a majority opinion that has us 8 years into a war, and strategcially worse off and an economy in tatters and a national reputation at arguably an all time low to show for it.

I could be wrong, its theory and I have no metrics to prove my case.

There are strong metrics however that the majority opinion is wrong.

(Oh, and 5 minutes of google research on foreign fighers and and insurgent movements will show you the clear connections that I speak to. And I have NEVER, EVER said we should impose our values on others, quite the contrary. In fact, I beat a steady drum that we need to stop the hubris, and stop trying to control every outcome, and to help enable populaces everywhere to enjoy their own self-determination, and that in so doing we will turn down the heat on a global security environment.)
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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Old 02-10-2010   #58
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Default The 'Jihad Generation' BBC TV series

The first episode of a three-part BBC TV series called the 'Jihad Generation' by Peter Taylor, a respected reporter - notably for his work in Northern Ireland, was shown on Monday and gives an insight into the emergence in the UK of this 'generation'.

The programme is available on the BBC as an Ipod for nineteen days:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode..._Episode_1/and a summary is on: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8500782.stm

An alternative and hopefully works for those overseas, yes in the USA: http://watch-tv-episodes-online.com/...part-1-online/ alas registration required - well I tried.

The BBC summary:
Quote:
Peter Taylor investigates the terrorist threat from young Muslim extremists radicalised on the internet.

Following the attempt to bomb an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day, this landmark series looks at the angry young men of Generation Jihad who have turned their backs on the country where they were born.

In the first episode, Peter hears from those convicted under Britain's newest anti-terror laws and investigates how some of the most notorious terrorists came to be radicalised. He finds a generation that has shed the moderate Islam their parents brought to this country, and instead have adopted a faith that they believe compels them to stand apart from Britain and its values.
The next programme:
Quote:
How young, radicalised Muslims plotted major attacks in Europe and America.
The Kings ICSR blogsite has one comment on the programme by Dr John Bew:http://icsr.info/blog/Generation-Jihad
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Old 02-15-2010   #59
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Default

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But as the airwaves and print are full of the same steady drum beat of a majority opinion that has us 8 years into a war, and strategcially worse off and an economy in tatters and a national reputation at arguably an all time low to show for it.

I could be wrong, its theory and I have no metrics to prove my case.

There are strong metrics however that the majority opinion is wrong.
There are certainly strong metrics to suggest that current strategy is misguided... though the relationship between "GWOT" strategy and our economic issues is pretty tenuous. I'm not convinced that this strategy is built around a majority opinion on radicalization, though: it seems to me to have derived more from a poorly considered backlash after 9/11, an impulse that was exploited by a relative minority who had long believed that US military force could be used to reshape the Middle East.

It seems to me that the fundamental flaw in current strategy was inaccurate assessment of capacity: we believed we could do things that we did not in fact have the capacity to do. We believed that we could remove governments, and we were right. We believed that we could quickly replace those governments with fully functioning alternatives that would be accepted by the various populaces involved, and we were wrong. We also significantly underestimated our antagonist's capacity to muster opposition to our operations in the countries involved.

It seems to me that your proposal suffers from many of the same problems. You suggest that we can use the threat of withholding aid to move countries to govern better, satisfy their own populaces, and reduce the motivation for insurgencies that target both host nations and the US. For this to even be possible, 4 conditions have to be met:

First, there has to be a government: we can't press a government to reform if there isn't one. Won't work in Somalia or in the various ungoverned spaces in our target areas.

Second the government has to have the capacity to implement the reforms we want. If a government lacks the capacity to perform, pressing it to reform is like threatening to stop feeding a paraplegic who refuses to walk: all you get is starvation. Misgovernment is not always a consequence of willful neglect or exploitation by despots. It also happens when a weak or ineffectual central government is unable to control exploitive or abusive local clans, tribes, power brokers, military units, or other elements of a factionalized populace. I think you'd find that these conditions apply in a number of our target countries.

Third, the government in question has to be dependent on US aid. Many of the countries involved are not. The insurgency in southern Thailand, for example, could certainly be resolved with reform, but the government does not rely on US aid and the threat of withholding aid is not likely to have any effect. We might want to influence the Saudis but we can't do it by withholding aid, because they don't get any aid from us, nor are they in any way dependent on us. Libya, Kuwait, Syria and Sudan are not on our aid list.

Fourth, we have to apply pressure in a way that is not going to provoke a backlash against us. As I've said before, many countries are extremely sensitive to anything that could be perceived as American interference in domestic affairs, and our efforts are likely to be interpreted as self-interested meddling. Populaces are anything but uniform, and substantial parts of any given populace may see our pressure as an unwelcome threat. A country where a portion of the populace opposes the government may also have a portion of the populace that supports the government and resents are pressure. We've recently seen this problem in action: the US put its weight behind a fatally flawed "peace agreement" in the southern Philippines that was supposed to placate one restive segment of the populace, totally failing to anticipate the response of another segment of the populace. Good intentions are not necessarily interpreted as such by the intended beneficiaries. The road to hell, they say, is paved with 'em.

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(Oh, and 5 minutes of google research on foreign fighers and and insurgent movements will show you the clear connections that I speak to.
After rather more than that, I don't see a connection. Correlation, perhaps, but no solid evidence of causation, and even the correlation is tenuous. Looking here:

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/jou...p/49-watts.pdf

Ranking by foreign fighter intensity (fighters/100k Muslims) we see that by far the most intense sources of fighters are Libya and Saudi Arabia. Both countries face internal dissent, but in neither case has it reached a level that could credibly called insurgency. The Libyan government is hardly a creation or a tool of the US, and since neither country receives aid from the US it isn't likely that we can change their policies by withholding aid. In Saudi Arabia in particular any suggestion that we are applying pressure toward a move away from monarchy would almost certainly inspire far more resistance than sympathy among the populace.

Next down the list we have Yemen. Substantial US aid, but it's very doubtful that the government has the capacity to initiate significant reform, and the most probable consequence of aid withdrawal is a collapse into full ungoverned-space status. Not a desirable outcome.

Then we have Kuwait, Syria, Tunisia, Jordan... Kuwait and Syria aren't getting aid from us, no leverage there. Tunisia and Jordan, possibly, but now we're getting into environments where the number of foreign fighters is really pretty small and unlikely to be significantly influenced by the policies suggested.

On top of all of this, where is the compelling evidence that foreign fighters are part of a populace driven to insurgency by misgovernment? Experience shows us that religious or ideological fervor, personal discontent, and testosterone can drive some individuals to violence in virtually any governance environment. There's a significant difference between distributed discontent and insurgency.

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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
And I have NEVER, EVER said we should impose our values on others, quite the contrary. In fact, I beat a steady drum that we need to stop the hubris, and stop trying to control every outcome, and to help enable populaces everywhere to enjoy their own self-determination, and that in so doing we will turn down the heat on a global security environment.)
Isn't self-determination one of our core values? Aren't we assuming that populaces want structures that allow for regular changes in government? Don't we tend to let our definitions of these values guide our evaluations of governance in other countries?

Suppose we have a country where .05% of the population is radically disaffected and willing to use violence to express its disaffection, 30% are substantially discontent, may provide indirect support to violence but not participate, and the balance have some gripes but aren't all that opposed to the status quo. Are we going to come in and demand changes that may not satisfy even those who are angry... and who may want to see changes very different from those we are trying to promote?

Certainly the desire to control can cause problems, but it's not the only cause. For much of the 1990s, when our current problems were brewing, our policies seemed driven less by a desire to control than by a desire to deny and ignore.
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Old 02-21-2010   #60
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Default Lessons from the Yemen

Hat tip to Leah Farrell on .... .This could drop into the Yemen thread, but sits better here, even if a short article and a pointer to a short clip from the film:

Starts with:
Quote:
The Oath," a documentary by filmmaker Laura Poitras, opens a window into the world of al-Qaida, Osama Bin Laden, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and the image of the United States in Yemen. (Ends with). Poitras does not take sides. She says she tells it like it is. Her documentary "The Oath," links al-Qaida's growth in Yemen to anger at U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and to the controversial detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.
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